What I’ve learned taking my passion for recycling on the road

Author: Tammy Shields, Cleanfarms Saskatchewan Program Advisor

It has been a little more than a year since I joined the Cleanfarms team. I was happy with the career decision because I care deeply about agriculture and the environment, so becoming part of an organization that is working to enhance both is where I belong.

Not only do I get the chance to make a difference close to home – I live in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan – but I’ve recently had the opportunity to take my passion for recycling on road trips to my neighbouring provinces.

Last month, I visited a few of our Alberta container collection sites (Rocky View and Wheatland) which are also collecting ag plastics. This, along with what I’ve seen in Manitoba (where 23 municipalities are piloting ag film and twine collections) reminded me that there is a strong desire to strengthen ag plastics recycling across the Prairies.

I was truly in awe of the high quality ag plastic rolls I saw at Wheatland County. The care and attention to detail that went into compressing these 300 pound bags and minimizing contamination to ensure recyclability was incredible.

Equally exciting was the enthusiasm from the team at Rocky View County. It was contagious. Together, we moved four loads of grain bags – about 120 tonnes or approximately 860 grain bags – in record time thanks to their on-site expertise and my end-market recycling partners in the south.

Throughout, I’ve also seen a lot of variation in how collection sites handle these bags. I like to see this diversity because it brings forward new ideas.

At the same time, it got me thinking seriously about the feedback I’ve heard over the years. End-market recyclers tell me, time and time again, that they need ‘consistency’.

The volume of recovered material that we ship to end-markets from the Prairies is relatively small (although the benefits are significant to these rural communities and farmers) and therefore cleanliness, weight and bale size of individual loads impact the “consistency factor”.

Like any commodity, we need to ensure that Canadian grain bags gain a reputation for consistency and quality. By focusing on these core values, we can open new markets and ensure our grain bags are, in fact, recycled into new products.

New markets are within our reach. The individuals involved, along with municipalities, farmers and service providers, are so willing to share best practices and understand that collaboration, consistency and commitment will make this a reality.

In Saskatchewan alone this year, we’ve shipped 59 loads of grain bags for a total of 1008 tonnes equal to approximately 7,200 bags. What an accomplishment. I’m looking forward to seeing what we can (consistently!) deliver in 2019.

Tammy Shields is Cleanfarms’ Western Region Program Coordinator. She can be reached at 306-341-4460, shieldst@cleanfarms.ca

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